What have we been up to?

I haven’t written a blog since March, right when things were headed from bad to worse concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Having read it back, it seems we knew where things were heading in terms of ‘the peak and curve’, but who could have predicted what has since unfolded. It has been a truly devastating time for millions of people, and a moment in time we will be talking about for the rest of our lives. We have lived through a historic event, but on reflection I’m not sure how many people care too much given how catastrophic it has been on so many levels.

As for us, our main activity is hosting lunch for a large amount of people once a month. So, this of course has stopped. For quite some time, we have been acutely aware of how important club has become for so many people, even if it was only once a month. And it strikes me now that, given how vulnerable our members are to the virus, we are likely going to be one of the last services to resume. It’s unfair, it’s cruel and totally out of our control. We soldier on however in hard times, and we’ve done our bit to keep both our members and our community going.

As some of you will have seen through our social media, when everything closed down, I was approached by some parents at All Saints Primary School in Bishop’s Stortford. This was extra special for me as this is in fact my old primary school! So it’s like things had gone full circle. The parents asked me if I would be interested in working in partnership with them to host a Penpal scheme, whereby they ask their children to write some letters and I would pass them on to some of our members. Letters included pictures (mainly rainbows), photos and beautifully written letters, full of questions and happy thoughts. It was my job to read through and match the children up with who I thought would be a good pairing. Who could have known what a hit this would be?! After advertising what we were doing on Facebook, I was soon flooded with letters from children all over the area asking for a Penpal. I don’t know the exact number (not expecting the success I was so disorganised!) but I think I received maybe 30-40 letters in total.

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Letters went out and friendships were born. Once things had relaxed, some of our members invited their new friend over for a socially-distanced tea in the garden, while some are still writing to each other now. For me, the most important thing was to hear what an impact this had had on the overall mood and health of our members. I was told by several what a pick-up it was, and how nice it was to know they hadn’t been forgotten. I was told it was also such a treat knowing they had something to do in the day, and a reason to leave the house and take a short walk to their nearest post-box. For the children, I believe it has been a very educational experience and one they have very much enjoyed. I’m so pleased we have been able to facilitate this. Once we are allowed, I’m hoping to arrange a Sunday lunch just for our new Penpals!

Another exciting development to share with you all is that, after nearly 3 years since our first lunch, we now have official charity status! I first had the idea for club 3 years ago this month, but I had known for a long time that a life goal of mine has always been to be the founder of a charity. I never knew what shape that charity would take and what the aims would be, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. I’m told prioritising everyone above myself all the time isn’t always the perfect trait to have, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

With official status comes lots of exciting developments. We now have an experienced board of Trustees, who can guide and advise me on decisions and future developments of The Welbeloved Club. It’s actually a new role for the majority of the board, so I feel really honoured they have chosen to take this step with me and not only further develop themselves, but share their enthusiasm for the club with me. Having this status also opens doors for us in terms of funding and support among many other things. So, it’s all positive news!

Around a month or so ago now, once social-distancing measures were put in place, we had the idea of arranging a ‘meals-on-wheels’ service, where we would attempt to identify 15 or so members that we feel could really benefit from a hot meal. This was not easy, and in reality all of our members could benefit for one reason or another. However, capacity meant we were only able to deliver 15 meals. We based our decision on next of kin information, what we knew about our members already and just our best judgement.

So every Sunday between 10am – 1pm, we are preparing, cooking, packaging and delivering hot meals! Prepared all in mum’s kitchen (inspected already by the council) with the help of some of our trusted volunteers, we are cooking a roast dinner and a pudding. We know it’s making a difference, and not just from a nutritional aspect. Our delivery drivers are finding that some of those receiving a meal are going all week without seeing or speaking to hardly anyone. Opening the door for their lunch is often the first or second time they have opened it all week, so seeing a person as well as lunch is proving just as important. It has reaffirmed why we are doing this and the huge difference it’s making. As club shows no signs of reopening just yet, I’m hoping we can increase the amount of meals we are doing and therefore help even more people.

We are doing the best we can to keep in touch with our members, while we can’t see them in person. We’ve so far done two mailings out, with a third one planned in the next week or so. Included in this mailing will be a fantastic FREE puzzle & info book, donated to us kindly by Home Instead Senior Care East Herts. They have given us 200 copies, and it’s packed full of different activities and information – I know our members will get a lot out of it.

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If you’ve read this far – thank you! Often these blog posts are me rambling, and as it has been so long since my last one there has been a lot to cover! Thank you for your continued support of The Welbeloved Club – we truly would not still be running if it wasn’t for the support of our local community and those of you further afield, who simply love what we do and want to support.

If you or someone you know owns a local business or is in a position to host a collection pot for us, you can! Please just get in touch. Every little counts, especially in these current times. With our new found charity status, you can now also select us as your Charity of the Year! Again, please just drop us an email and we can give you more details.

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Hopefully the next time I write, we will have a better idea of when we might be able to get back together.

Stay safe!

Sunday 1st March – an unexpected last

Our March lunch feels like a distant memory now. At the time, we had only small concerns over the COVID-19 situation but none of us could have predicted what would unfold in the coming weeks. If we had known it would be the last time we would see our friends for at least three months, we would have held them close (we were still allowed to!) and told them everything would be alright. That we would be here for them albeit from a distance to get them through. That we would miss them all dearly, but health has to come first.

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Fast forward just a month, and we are living in a totally different world. Today would have been our April lunch and not only are we not allowed to get together in a big group, we aren’t allowed to even leave the house unless absolutely necessary. All of our sudden even our more active members have been forced into isolation and the world around them has shrunk to a size they could have never imagined. To say we are sad is an understatement. I know our volunteers share the same overriding concern – are months of isolation potentially more dangerous than the actual virus? What should we do? What CAN we do?

As I have mentioned in previous posts, after two and a half years of hosting lunches, we feel an enormous sense of responsibility to do right by our members. To protect them, to nurture them, to make them happy on sad days and to be that force behind battling their loneliness. It’s a big ask, but one we accept without question and one we take incredibly seriously. The current situation might stop us meeting in person, but it means we’ve just had to be a bit resourceful and ask for help. So that’s what we’ve done.

We’ve teamed up with the incredible ‘Operation Community’ – a new project based in Bishop’s Stortford that is supporting those most in need during this difficult time. Services include befriending, shopping and delivery services and a hot meal service for those unable or unlikely to cook for themselves. We are very proud to part of it, and are working really hard to make sure as many of our members benefit from the service as possible. I personally am helping to promote the service via social media, while mum is helping on the shopping helpline. We are both also of course still on the end of the phone to help anyone who needs it because that’s all we can do.

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On top of this, we are working with children and their families across the area to match ‘pen pals’ across the generations. I’ve absolutely loved reading the letters from the children, and have done my best to match them up with who I think would be the perfect friend. It’s an amazing thing we have created and when this is all over, I hope they’ve made friends for life. When you’re feeling lonely, there is no better feeling than a new friend.

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I must say a huge thank you again to our local paper the Bishop’s Stortford Independent who not only helped us promote our pen pal scheme, but they’ve also gone above and beyond despite trying to survive as a small business themselves. They appealed to their loyal readers to help raise enough money to pay for our most lonely members to receive the paper every week for the next three months. To no surprise at all they managed it within a day, and now many of our members are going to enjoy a weekly roundup of their local news. It may not seem much, but I believe this will play a vital role in ensuring they stay connected to the outside world and know support is out there. It’s also supporting our amazing local paper (which we are so lucky to have) so it’s win win.

So as you can see, we’re doing all we can to support our members while we all adapt to this strange world. We never feel like it’s enough – I know I personally feel like I should be doing more. If there is anything I have learnt about loneliness, it’s the fact those suffering with it are the ones less likely to reach out. So, I know I should be making more phone calls. I know I should be reaching out and offering an ear to our members that really need it – now more than ever. But, I hope whatever I am doing currently is going some way to help as many as possible. I don’t know when we will be back, I don’t know if this is about to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. But I know we’ll be here for anyone who needs it.

Despite our hiatus, we still have direction for the club. It may be on hold, but just before social gatherings were banned, we managed to get in our first Trustee meeting for the club. It was a really positive meeting, with lots to think about and lots of direction. There is so much potential for us and I’m so lucky and thankful to have such an amazing, experienced team behind me. I’m really excited about that and can’t wait to tell you all more in the coming months.

I’m nearly done, but before I go I wanted to pay tribute to a really wonderful lady who we lost just a few days ago. Our vibrant, gorgeous, naughty Spanish Queen, Monte.

Mum and I met Monte probably nearly 10 years ago now. Mum took up a job cooking at The Hailey Centre In Sawbridgeworth, and quickly roped me in during School holidays and study breaks to volunteer. It was here I first met ‘the crew’ – Monte, Pam, Sheila, Anne, Jean, PJ, John, to name a few. Monte knew everything about me by the time I said hello, and took me under her wing like an adopted granddaughter. With her Spanish sass, Monte told me how wonderful my mum’s cooking was and how, if I didn’t show her appreciation at every occasion, there would be trouble. Straight away a special friendship established and we’ve never looked back.

Jump forward ten years, I launch The Welbeloved Club and I think Monte was probably my first recruit. Every month, there was no escaping her grip – she cuddled and cuddled and cuddled until she could not cuddle anymore. She asked all about my family and friends every month even though some she had never met. This didn’t matter to her though – they were my family so they therefore were hers. She took great delight in telling me how handsome my brother was, and when it came to recruiting a few of our young male volunteers, Monte would charm them with Spanish love songs and whip out that classic dazzling smile and the rest was history. New members and volunteers were in safe hands with her – I knew I could leave them with her and their experience of club would be made 100% brighter. She made people feel instantly at ease – a kindness she showered me with all that time ago.

Monte was tough. Nothing phased her and when she told us she was poorly, she made it clear this wasn’t her time and had every intention of living forever.

We’ll miss her. I’ll really really miss her. I’ve never known a heart so big belong to such a tiny little lady. She was always so kind and full of praise for me, and I hope she knew just how much that meant to me. I hope she knew how much we loved her because we really really did.

Sleep tight Monte. X

Monte

COVID-19 update

As you have probably guessed, we have made the very difficult decision to stop our lunches for the foreseeable future. We are desperately hoping this will only be for a maximum of three months but only time will tell. We of course will reopen as soon as it is safe and recommended to do so.

During our closure, The Welbeloved Club is dedicated to doing absolutely everything we can to make sure all of our guests are safe, well and doing ok during this dreadful isolation. Tonight, under the guidance of New Apton Centre we joined a conference call with other organisations and charities operating in East Herts and the surrounding area who will be forming a partnership in the coming days and weeks to look after our elderly community. We have all individually had so many incredibly generous offers of help, and now is the time to utilise this in a safe and compliant way. Please ensure you are following Bishop’s Stortford Independent for further updates on this.

In the meantime, we have written to our guests with all the information they need to stay safe and stay connected. We’ll also be working closely with a local primary school to join up the children and older people through letters, drawings and happy messages.

There are many ways you can support us through this difficult time. Help spread the word of our work and what we are doing to help along with other organisations, donations (our outgoings will be reduced but we are using the usual funds to purchase stamps, paper, envelopes etc.), and just be kind. Please be mindful of those less fortunate and help wherever you can. It’s a very scary, strange time for everyone and we need to stick together.

If you need any information from us, please contact us at thewelbelovedclub@gmail.com

Thanks all – be safe and stay inside!

 

P.S. – our Quiz Night is currently NOT cancelled – the event is not until the end of June so we are still going ahead unless told otherwise. There are still two tables left to reserve so please get in touch!

Sunday 2nd February – a lifeline

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My mum recently found an old copy of the order of service for Doris’ funeral back in 2004. Inside was what was said about her and I wanted to share some of that with you now. Perhaps you’ll see why she inspired me…

‘Doris was renowned for her cooking. She always had something either on the stove or in the oven and was particularly well known for her banana bread. Anyone who visited Doris always went away with what you all called a ‘care parcel’. If your visit has been unplanned you might find you left with a warm rice pudding Doris had just made or even a bag of carrots. Mary (my Nana, Doris’ daughter) said it was really lucky her mum always made her rice puddings ‘firm’. No-one was ever allowed to leave empty handed and if need be she would rummage round in the cupboards looking for something to give to her visit even if it was only a jar of marmalade.’

Even from this short extract, you can just imagine the kind of woman she was. My memories of her before her stroke(s) are hazy, but we were reminded regularly just how special she was, and how the best way to show everyone she cared was through their stomach. Reminds me of our Welbeloved Chef at the moment…

I wanted to share this with you because we hit some sort of record at this lunch. We laid for our largest number yet – 118 people. To think two years ago we were opening The Welbeloved Club and hosting 48 people for lunch, and I was praying I could pull this thing off. We now not only host for a staggering amount of people, we are a strong team of 20-30 volunteers and well on the way to something extraordinary. I so wish Doris could see us now, albeit embarrassed, but so proud especially of my mum for applying everything she taught her growing up. However, she would probably tell us to double the portions and serve extra pudding!

I’m working really hard at the moment to grow The Welbeloved Club behind the scenes now. We have a meeting scheduled with potential Trustees, in the hope we can become something ‘official’, and I’m busy as always getting everything in order. The club has grown beyond anything I could have ever imagined, I’m now at the point where I have had to temporarily stop anyone else joining us for lunch, and any new volunteers joining. Growth has happened month on month, it hasn’t given us the chance to truly adapt and now we really are running at full capacity. There are a lot of processes to establish both month to month and on the lunch day itself, as well as revisions to preparation times and finances to iron out. We are super busy behind the scenes (and I’m working full-time too!) but I promise the waiting list will only be temporary. It’s as much to benefit our guests as it is us, as we never want to falter on the high standards we have worked so hard to create.

This month after lunch, we were lucky to have a talk from the fraud team at Hertfordshire Police. My sister works in the fraud team for Leicestershire Police, so very kindly put me in touch with Alan who offered his services free of charge. We paid him in the only way we know how – food. While tea and coffee was being served, Alan spoke to our guests about staying safe and avoiding becoming a victim of crime. It was very informative and guests were given a very handy booklet on keeping safe online, in their own homes, on their phone and even on their doorstep. Fraud is only getting worse, with older people and those with learning disabilities their main victims. Anything we can do to keep our guests safe we will always accommodate.

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I am so proud of what we have achieved with The Welbeloved Club in just two years. I am however aware of the deeper impact the club is now having. On the surface you see the hard work, the cooking, the admin, volunteers and the organisation it takes. However, what you don’t always see is the lifeline the club has become to so many of our guests. One of our ladies had been really struggling in the week leading up to lunch. She spent the entire week completely alone – she hadn’t seen or spoken to anyone. One day she explained how she didn’t even get dressed, and went on to say getting out on Sunday was all that was keeping her going. Not only does it sting because she is one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, but the very thought of her being alone all week was a very bitter pill to swallow. It reminded us all what an incredibly important service we are offering, and the deal we have voluntarily entered into with the older generation. We give them so much, but they give us so much in return. Please please reach out to them because they need us – more than they will ever tell you.

See you soon!

Sunday 5th January – a fresh start

So here we are – our first lunch of 2020! I’m not quite sure where the time has gone, but it’s now just over two years since I first asked my friends on Facebook to help me start The Welbeloved Club. Back then, I asked for £1,000 to help get me started, with the aim of providing 48 people with lunch at The Hailey Centre in Sawbridgeworth. I soon reached and exceeded the target, roped in a few volunteers, bought some equipment and convinced my mum to ‘help’. The conversation went along the lines of “Mum, I’m thinking of doing this, do you reckon you could help me cook some food?” THANKFULLY she agreed (although Mum, do you remember being a little bit sceptical at first?!) and here we are. We have a bigger venue, the longest list of names you’ve ever seen, over 30 volunteers and even polo shirts to match.

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January for us got off to a bit of a hairy start – it had been just over 5 weeks since our December lunch so it took a while to get back into the swing of things. However, it didn’t take long before everything was back to normal and we were ready to serve our first lunch of the year. On the menu was roast pork, crackling (of course) and veg, followed by homemade ginger pudding and white sauce. It was a very welcome start to 2020 and as always it was lovely to see clean plates coming back!

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It was lovely to see so many familiar faces back for lunch after the Christmas break. With the lunch being so early on in December, it’s been quite a stretch in between. Having them back has served as a reminder to us all that despite The Welbeloved Club existing and giving them all a space to be with friends and company, it doesn’t heal the bitter sting of loneliness altogether. The majority of our guests were lucky to be with some family or friends on Christmas Day, but many of them were also alone. Due to not wanting to make a fuss and the classic British stiff upper lip, many spent the entire day not speaking to or seeing anybody and did not reach out. It’s what we expected, and despite being reminded daily I can’t fix it for everybody, it’s a hard pill to swallow. So, this time next year, I’m hoping to have something in place where those on their own will have somewhere to go or someone to talk to on Christmas Day.

Since the start of 2020, I have been trying to read up and educate myself as much as possible on the logistics and ‘back-end stuff’ of running a charity. Having only learnt on the job, there is still so much to learn and I’m accepting I can no longer do it alone. My aim now is to become a registered charity which above anything opens up more funding doors and puts us firmly on the map. We can hopefully reach out to the wider community and become your Charity of the Year, give talks in the local community and in Schools, inspire others to start something similar and much more. However with a charity comes Trustees, governance, laws and legal documentation and an obligation to stick to everything required of us. None of this is out of reach for us however, so I’m now working hard on making this a reality. I have taken steps to up our marketing game and have been in touch with a company to help us with our branding, website, logo and general marketing. We aren’t quite there yet but in a month or so I hope to have made huge steps forward in making this possible. So, watch this space!

On top of getting all of this sorted, I still have a lunch club to run month to month. The admin tasks are piling up and I find myself dedicating most evenings and weekends doing something for club, whether it’s filing, spreadsheets, purchasing or just reading up! Lots of people have offered their time to help me with small grant applications, volunteer admin, GDPR, risk assessment etc. – basically of the things I had no idea about and wouldn’t have even thought of without them! So, thank you so very much. I feel I spend my whole life thanking people and chewing their ear off about how I never take it for granted and remind myself everyday how lucky I am. But, I’ll say it again – thank you! I couldn’t do any of this without you all.

Next month we have roast beef and all the trimmings following by lemon mousse cake. No doubt it will be empty plates all round! Thanks to my sister, after lunch we also have a talk from a representative from Herts Police about fraud, scams and how our guests can protect themselves from falling victim to them.

See you all on the 2nd Feb!

Sunday 1st December – Happy New Year!

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Our Christmas lunch feels so long ago now! Back on the 1st December, we hosted our biggest lunch yet, serving in total (we think!) around 102 older people a full Christmas dinner and dessert followed by entertainment, gifts and copious amounts of mince pies, sherry and great company. It was quite an afternoon!

As many of you know, The Bishop’s Stortford Independent supported us last year to host our Christmas lunch and they pulled out all the stops again this year to help us put on a Christmas lunch to remember. They asked their readers to pledge refreshments, gifts and other items like crackers and tablecloths, as well as finding sponsors to pay for all the meat, vegetables, flower table decorations and other very important food items! It was a huge success, and we were once again blown away by the generosity shown by the amazing people of Bishop’s Stortford and surrounding area. Those that were unable to pledge gifts and other items made donations instead, or offered their time on the day to make sure we had enough helpers. Editor Paul came along to help too, and meet some of the guests benefitting from the incredibly generous appeal. Christmas can be a very exciting time of year, but for us it has also been a time of reflection, generosity and a time to give back to those who find Christmas difficult. We have SO many people to thank but virtually impossible to name you all one by one, so on behalf of everyone at The Welbeloved Club (including our guests), please take this as a huge THANK-YOU for supporting us this Christmas.

 

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The afternoon was especially fun as we just had so much going on! We were delighted to be joined by Darrell Williams, who entertained our guests with lots of Christmas songs and some sing-a-long classics including Deliah and Sweet Caroline. We all commented on how we had never seen so many people get up to dance and join in (maybe the sherry helped??) and it was such a pleasure to see so many of our guests enjoying their afternoon. Hosting our Christmas lunch at the very beginning of December always worried me a bit as ideally, the closer to Christmas the better. However, looking back I think everyone had such a good time I’m confident it would have provided a lot of comfort when returning to an empty house. The mood was high and nobody walked away empty handed thanks to the adorable Rorie and Maisie!

A few days after the lunch, I was able to read back some of the messages in the Christmas cards given to me on the day. The general theme was very heartwarming, with many thanking us for our hard work, dedication and how none of it goes unnoticed. Some told us this past year they have felt less lonely, and have made new friends at the club they would never have ordinarily met. Now they go out for lunches together, go shopping together and even just call up for a chat. Result!

I wonder what Doris would have made of this. Nearly two years in, I wonder how she would feel about being somewhat of a local celebrity, or people coming together at a club named after her to make friends. I think the fact they are enjoying fantastic food cooked by her granddaughter would have made her very proud, given the fact she clearly taught mum all she knows! But we’ve had conversations about the fact she would likely be very embarrassed and proud all at the same time. My memories of her before falling ill are very hazy, but I would like to think she would be overjoyed.

2020 I’m hoping will be a year of growth, and hopefully this time next year we will be a registered charity – that’s our dream! There is a lot of work to be done but I’m committed to dedicating more time to the club and growing it even more so we can ultimately help even lonely older people.

Thank you all so so much for all of your support in 2019, we wish you all a very Happy New Year! See you on Sunday 5th January!

 

The Bishop’s Stortford Independent Christmas Appeal

We are so fortunate that our local newspaper (Bishop’s Stortford Independent) are hosting another Christmas appeal for us, in order to give all of our guests a Christmas to remember.

If you would like more information on how you can get involved and support the appeal, please follow the link below:

https://www.bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk/news/indie-christmas-dinner-appeal-help-us-give-the-lonely-elderly-a-festive-feast-to-savour-9090883/?fbclid=IwAR2rJ4QkreUA6tt_Zt8JelJVDGFUd-A63yAcYL6CT248K-VAFj65jRUGEDQ

Thank you!

Sunday 3rd November – Remembrance

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This was our second November lunch since we started, and it proved just as special as the last! We decided to stick with the Remembrance theme and this time, we thought we would trial laying the tables out a little differently.

The Welbeloved Club has always and will always be about making friends, meeting someone new and chatting to someone you may never have met had it not been for the club. Having individual tables worked well and definitely gave guests a chance to chat and share interests. However, I felt it was limiting people to their table. Once everyone had been a few times, the tables were staying very similar and as a result, it didn’t provide much opportunity to meet new friends. So, we tried a ‘street party’ type layout and I think it went really well! It really opened the tables up and gave guests a chance to chat to more people, see more faces and of course, join in with our singer for the afternoon.

I am acutely aware the above picture highlights exactly how many people we had with us last month. It’s quite incredible – over 100 people joined us. Our highest yet! Gosh. What are we thinking? What business do we have hosting an event for this many people!? It is of course a huge achievement and one I am incredibly proud of, but also a very overwhelming experience. I would be totally lost without my mum who essentially runs the club month to month while I continue to work full-time. So, as well as the cooking, she is doing a lot of the admin, planning, correspondence and restocking. I owe her so much, so it seems only right I tell you all now what a total superstar she is!

So, lunch this month was beef cobbler followed by sticky toffee pudding. Cobbler for anyone unfamiliar with the term is a savoury scone, almost like a giant dumpling. It was totalllllly delicious. The scones were homemade in the morning, and cooked beautifully in our new oven! Sticky toffee pudding as you can only imagine was a delight, with everyone commenting on just how light and fluffy it was but also what a treat to have with ice-cream. Basically, just another reason why mum is totally ace!

We welcome back our singer from last year, Diane Moore-Cowell. We absolutely loved having her with us last year that we just had to get her back. She gets everybody up on their feet dancing, singing and just having such a great time. She is, of course, totally gorgeous and looks so fantastic in her wartime outfit. She was however promptly informed that she would have been told off had this been her real uniform as I think it was either banned to wear make-up or perfume? One of the two. She was let off though (thankfully!) and gave us an hour of entertainment and got everyone in the nostalgic mood.

Are we now really at the last lunch of the year? I can’t quite believe where the time has gone. I have been busy writing over 100 Christmas cards (not all at once!) and putting together our 2020 menu. I’m also busy renewing insurance and mum has just finished our end of year accounts. It has made us think more about becoming a registered charity in 2020 as it will open up lots of different opportunities for us in the future. Watch this space!

As promised, this week should bring more information on the Bishop’s Stortford Independent’s Christmas appeal, in aid of our club! You will be able to find out more information on how you can support us, how you can get involved and what we need! The paper comes out on Wednesday and will have further information online.

See you on the 1st for Christmas!

Sunday 6th October – a lonely season

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We are now well into our 2019 autumn season, the nights are getting longer and our guest list is certainly growing!

Autumn and winter can be a really tough time for those on their own. Christmas is looming, the weather can stop older people from getting out and with the nights drawing in, it is no surprise this time of year is said to be the loneliest time of year. It’s also Halloween season which, if not respected by everyone, can be very scary for older people for a different reason. If you are living on your own and are not used to knocks on your door, ‘trick or treaters’ can be very overwhelming. Nobody should be made to feel anxious in their own homes, and while nobody wants to spoil the fun, please be mindful of your elderly neighbours who may not want to be disturbed this Halloween night.

Our (very busy) lunch this month was roast beef, followed by apple sponge and custard. We always buy local when we can, and this month we were delighted to purchase the apples from my workplace, St Elizabeth’s Centre in Much Hadham. They host Apple Day once a year where guests are invited to pick apples from the orchard in exchange for donations. The timing worked perfectly so guests enjoyed apple sponge courtesy of a local orchard! It also means we were able to support another charity which makes it all the better.

We continue to welcome new guests every month. I would say at the moment on average, we are welcoming perhaps 3-5 new faces which is lovely! Two of our volunteers Jess and Hannah had their lunch with two new chaps and really enjoyed getting to know them. I joined them soon after and enjoyed being able to take 10 minutes to chat, as well as catching up with one of our regulars. It’s all very well cooking, serving and clearing away food, but it is the face to face conversation we are trying to promote. This doesn’t have to be just between guests – I”m always encouraging volunteers to take up rogue empty seats so they can spend some time getting to know our guests and who knows, likely be the first person they have spoken to all week.

I mentioned earlier that lunch was super busy. I was at one point worried we wouldn’t be able to pull the lunch off as I was limited on volunteers but sure enough that wasn’t the case for very long! In times of need, people pull together and as I predicted, I probably had too many at one point! I always try and stagger arrivals and departures so everyone can get the most out of their time with us but I’m likely to never get it completely right. I’m so grateful for every minute people give me, and for their patience when things can be a bit quiet for them or the opposite! It’s a work in progress and I owe them all a huge thank you for sticking by me.

As we look to our November lunch, I’m really excited to say that our singer from last year Diane Moore-Cowell is coming back! She got everyone up on their feet and gave everyone a really fun, uplifting afternoon. We loved her so much that I couldn’t wait to invite her back. We will be hosting another Remembrance theme, in which guests will be able to wave a flag and singalong with all their favourites.

I have another bit of very exciting news. I can’t confirm too much yet but I’m thrilled to say that the Bishop’s Stortford Independent newspaper are supporting our Christmas appeal again this year. We have already had a number of sponsors come forward to pay for our ‘Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh’ packages, as well as our ‘Little Donkey’ package. All will become clear next month but watch this space! Thank you so very much to Paul and his team at the Indie for showing us your endless support.

See you next month for Remembrance!

P.S – we have just joined the world of Instagram – follow us now at @thewelbelovedclub !